US lawyer to consult on medical negligence cost

A leading US lawyer is coming to Ireland to help our medical and legal systems examine faster and cheaper ways of resolving medical negligence cases, the cost of which have almost doubled since 2009 to €81m last year.

International lawyer Kathleen Clark, who has pioneered new collaborative approaches to these issues in the US, will be among the speakers at a major seminar, organised by the Cork Resolution Centre, at UCC’s Brookfield Conference Centre on Apr 17.

It comes as new figures show that the HSE paid out just over €81m through the State Claims Agency on negligence claims last year — up 2.4% on the 2010 figure.

Around 40% of that amount — about €32m — was spent on the HSE’s legal defence fees.

Fine Gael TD Jerry Buttimer, chairman of the Oireachtas Committee on Health and Children, said it was “a worryingly large amount of money” which could be put to better use elsewhere in the health service.

“The figures are startling and they reveal an ongoing issue that needs to be addressed, he said.

“€32m of the overall amount went to HSE legal defence teams. This is despite a cap being introduced on the legal teams’ fees, which has reduced them by more than 20%. Clearly more needs to be done to ensure that more taxpayers money can be directed where it’s really needed.”

The conference in Cork later this month will be attended by doctors, consultants, hospital risk managers, lawyers, patient advocates including Margaret Murphy representing Patients for Patient Safety, and financial and other specialists. It will explore ways in which medical negligence or error issues can be resolved in speedier, less expensive and less adversarial ways.

Chair of the Cork Resolution Centre, solicitor Patricia Mallon, said it was an imperative that new ways of addressing medical negligence issues be examined and implemented.

“Current practice operates within traditional legal and medical culture and relies almost exclusively on the court process which can be lengthy, very expensive and attritional for all involved,” said Ms Mallon.

“The collaborative model puts the parties themselves at the centre of the negotiation, which proceeds in an environment of open disclosure and dialogue, putting the interests of the parties front and centre.”

The day after the training seminar, the Cork Resolution Centre will bring together patients and their families, medical practitioners, insurers, lawyers and other specialists.

Ms Mallon hopes this initiative will allow all sides to listen to each other and to examine ways that could improve traditional responses to medical negligence.

* Details on the seminar from Cork Resolution Centre at 021 4274018 or info@corkresolutioncentre.ie



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